Pros: It enhances the flow of electricity by reducing corrosion across connections - inexpensive
Cons: The 1/3 oz tube is so small it is easily lost!
Sometimes called tune-up grease, a thin film protects electrical connections from corrosion, extends bulb socket life, and prevents fusing of spark plug boots. A Must Have for high energy ignition systems and aluminum wiring.
Should you check the tool box of your local mechanic you will likely find at least a couple of Permatex products along with JB Weld and Loctite. Dating back to 1909, Permatex products have been lurking in garages, workshops, service stations, boat houses, race tracks, and aircraft hangars around the world. If it is in a tube or a can, chances are pretty good that it will sport a Permatex label. That 1/3 ounce tube of Permatex Dielectric Grease is no exception.
Grease Your Socket? Aw Come On!
Most people might think that putting grease on an electrical connection would stop the flow of electricity - that insulation stuff they talked about in Junior High Science class, but this slightly translucent white silicone dielectric compound actually enhances the flow of electricity by reducing corrosion. Corrosion acts as an insulator, and it eats away the material needed to complete a good electrical connection. Connections prone to corrosion are ones that can be subjected to salt, dirt, or ones that electricity flows through. So it might just stand to reason that those are ones where some dielectric grease could help them lead a longer and more effective life.
But Where Do Mechanics Use It?
Like I brought up before, it is sometimes called tune-up grease. That is because it is not a bad idea to coat spark plug connections with it. The dielectric grease will help prevent corrosion inside the cap and the caps from fusing to the spark plugs! Not only does that corrosion get in the way of the electricity flow, but makes it pretty tough to remove the caps during the next tune-up. So it is good for your car and good for the mechanic.
But I Am Not A Mechanic
In the early 1980's I bought a house with aluminum core wiring. The cost of copper had become so expensive that many builders reduced their costs by using aluminum core wire. It worked well for a few years, but as corrosion attacked the connections they sort of wore away. This caused arcing and increased the threat of fires. Pretty soon "codes" (the rules builders are required to follow) were changed to curtail the use of aluminum core wiring, but not before my house had been built. I realized I was burdened with the dreaded wire when outlets started working intermittently. An electrician neighbor suggested either rewiring the entire house (something that was well outside my home maintenance budget) or coat all the outlet, switch, and light fixture connections with dielectric grease. Going through my house I found many "loose" connections (ones that were on their way to causing problems), so I thanked my lucky starts I had been aimed in the right direction. I also found that the sockets for outdoor light fixtures no longer have that "crunchy" feel when replacing light bulbs (thay also seem to last a bit longer). Since then, whenever I change a switch, outlet, or even a light bulb, I take a bit of time to clean the surface and apply just a dab of dielectric grease. Even with all this use, I rarely buy replacement tubes more often that every other year or so.
While it is not considered hazardous even in California, some common sense should apply with its use. You should not eat it, leave it on your skin for too long, inhale it, or squeeze it into your eyes. Should you somehow mess up and do those things, first aid procedures are available in the Permatex Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) on their website. Otherwise you can dispose of it in accordance with any appropriate Federal, state, or local regulations. And then, it is not recommended for use in pure oxygen or oxygen rich systems, and should not be used with chlorine or other strong oxidizing materials.
In Your Tool Box
I strongly recommend laying out the $3 for a tube of Permatex Dielectric Grease. Any time you have electrical terminals in boats, cars, trailer hitches, battery terminals, or outdoor lighting fixtures, a dab of dielectric grease will go a long way. This might be another good time to check your tool box!